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I've seen assorted links on the net discussing handwritten siddurim, which brought up a number of questions, which I will ask here.

  1. Are there any halachot in regards to handwriting a siddur?
  2. In particular, what halachot are there in regards to writing shemot, such as the tetragrammaton in non STa"M contexts?
  3. On what may it be written?
  4. Who may write such a siddur?
  5. Assuming that only a sofer may write a handwritten siddur, are there any soferim who do so in the US? On what do they write?

Of course, for practical questions, CYLOR.

  • I believe the gemara curses those who write siddurim, though I think the same would be true of publishers as well (I think because of the shaimos issues). – Loewian Mar 26 '15 at 17:37
  • @loewian - "I believe the gemara curses those who write siddurim" - can you source this? I haven't heard this, before. Regarding #5 - how do you know that a siddur may only be written by a sofer? My history is not great, but when was paper (as we know it today, not papyrus) invented? – DanF Mar 26 '15 at 18:11
  • @DanF, #5 is a follow-up to #4, if 4 is not limited to soferim, then 5 is irrelevant. For #3, I'm contrasting paper and klaf – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 26 '15 at 19:27
  • @loewian, if you look at the second link, then you'd notice that the prohibition became moot when siddurim replaced rote-learning of the tefillah. How else did R' Sa'adia Gaon write his siddur? – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 26 '15 at 19:29
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    @loewian, I have never seen RaSa"G's manuscript, so I couldn't say. However, if you look in my first link, you'll see that the shemot are spelled out (albeit with shiluvim) and this handwritten siddur has the shem spelled out without shiluvim: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Besht_Siddur.jpg – Noach MiFrankfurt Mar 27 '15 at 16:10
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As I mentioned in a comment, the gemara in Shabbos 115b cites a Tosefta condemning those who write prayer-books (and amulets) with G-d's name: "...מכאן אמרו כותבי ברכות כשורפי תורה". While I could hear of a possible leniency with regard to writing the texts of brachot without the names of G-d explicitly written (e.g. by employing encripted spelling such as "יי" in place of the Tetragrammaton and using a single character that combines the א and ל for other divine names based on that root), explicitly writing the names doesn't seem to have any heter that I know of yet. In addition, most of the siddur is based on verses of Tanach which I believe have the same issues of shaimos as divine names even when they do not include one.

(Even if one were to argue that [akin to the leniency we have nowadays for writing/printing divrei torah in spite of the original prohibition of that practice] there is a reason nowadays to have printed/written texts of the prayer services, I find it very hard to believe that there would be an "eys la'asos..." nowadays for printing or writing the actual divine names in that context that would not have already been extant at the time of the writing of the Tosefta and Talmud.

(In addition, I believe there are laws of sirtut (etched lines) etc. for ksav ashur for which reason I believe (?) Rabbi Herschel Schachter of YU prints/writes his responsa and exams in Rashi script.)

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